TAYLOR, Mich. – Seems Luke Glendening will keep a headlock on outdoor games next season.
With the NHL’s announcement that the Colorado Avalanche will host the Red Wings in an outdoor game at Coors Field – the home of Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies – Glendening will maintain his grip on most outdoor games played.
“It’s exciting,” Glendening said. “It’s always exciting to play outdoor games. I think that would be No. 6 for me. … Each one is new and exciting and everyone has a different aspect to it and you just enjoy everyone.”
The Red Wings-Avs game, scheduled for Feb. 27, 2016, was announced as part of the league’s stadium series next season with Montreal and Boston as the Winter Classic marquee game played on New Year’s Day at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
The other slated game pits Chicago against the Minnesota Wild on the University of Minnesota’s downtown Minneapolis campus on Feb. 21, 2016. The Red Wings-Avs will meet the following Saturday.
It will be the third outdoor game in eight seasons for the Red Wings, who are 1-0-1 in games played out in the elements. Detroit defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, on Jan. 1, 2009, and lost in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1, 2014.
“It’s special to be outdoors and playing,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s obviously going to be a great atmosphere, but it is a long way away and when that comes we’ll focus on that.”
Following a five-day break, the Red Wings return to the ice Monday afternoon, practicing at Taylor Sportsplex before flying to Florida for a pair of games this week.
Detroit trails Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay by one point. The Wings open the post All-Star break at Florida on Tuesday before traveling north to face-off against the Lightning on Thursday.
“It’s been nice for us to get a few days off and get away from it a little bit,” Zetterberg said. “Today was right back at it and we’re looking forward to playing again tomorrow. I think everyone rested up pretty good for these days and we’re really excited to get back and play the rest (of the season).”
As for the 25-year-old Glendening, he has played in five outdoor games for three different teams – the University of Michigan, Grand Rapids Griffins and Red Wings. Two of the games were at Michigan Stadium on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, where he starred for three seasons. He also played outdoors at Camp Randal Stadium in Madison, Wis., Progressive Field in Cleveland, and Comerica Park in Detroit.
“They’re all memorable in their own ways,” Glendening said. “Obviously the Winter Classic at the Big House, where I played in college was special, but every one has had their own unique experiences and I’ve enjoyed every one.”
Coach Mike Babcock believes the league hit a home run with the Wings and Avalanche.
“That’s so good for our franchise, so good that you have enough respect nationally and across North America that you can be a draw,” he said. “Colorado is a beautiful, beautiful place, so anybody that gets to go there can go on a nice ski trip and then show up for the game. … I think it’s great for the Wings. It’s great for your logo to always be in the forefront.”
For a certain hockey demographic, the Red Wings and Avalanche was the predominant rivalry of the 1990s. Colorado and Detroit were two of the NHL's stellar franchises at that time and waged epic wars for Western Conference supremacy.
Between 1996 and 2002, the Wings and Avs met four times in the postseason, including the Western Conference finals in 1996, 1997 and 2002. From 1995 to 2002, one of the two won the Stanley Cup five times and represented the West in the finals six times.
“When you think about (Steve) Yzerman and (Sergei) Fedorov down the middle and then you think about on the other end (Peter) Forsberg and (Joe) Sakic,” Babcock said. “Sakic was one of my favorite players of all-time. … I just thought he was a special, special player. You think about the battles they had, they had good battles and hard battles. That’s when six teams in the league were better than the rest of the league by a longshot, so it was different than it is today.”
Opened in 1995, Coors Field is at an altitude of about 1,600 meters, which is almost one mile above sea level. Because of this, the air density inside the 50,445-seat stadium, baseballs travel greater distances than in any other ballpark.
“I really don’t know much at all, but I’m sure that will be quite the spectacle,” Glendening said. “Maybe my shot will be a little harder.”